10 March 2021
The Office marked Monday's International Women's Day with a panel discussion highlighting women in science. The panel explored gender equality in the IP world, traditionally held societal beliefs, and the importance of roles models and mentors. Five EPO staff were joined by the European Inventor Award winners Helen Lee (Popular Prize, 2016) and Ursula Keller (Lifetime achievement, 2018).
While women are increasingly named as inventor on patent applications and are joining large research teams, they still account for a smaller percentage of the total number of inventors. The panel shared their views on this issue and speaking from experience in her own career, Keller emphasised the role of organisations and leadership in fostering development opportunities for women. She spoke on communication and the importance of clear processes noting that, "accountability and transparency are an absolute minimum".
The event also looked at potential solutions and questioned the societal, organisational and political factors that could foster gender equality. Lee was asked how the underrepresentation of women in certain fields could be addressed. She stated that, "It comes from the top...the organisation has to inherently recognise talent of women and be willing to put women in power."
and inclusion remain important considerations at the EPO: through training and
mentorship programmes, the organisation supports the development of all staff and
has launched several initiatives such as gender-neutral writing or the
application of inclusive behaviours. The Office
is also aware of its responsibility to society as a whole and therefore
participates in community outreach activities that aim to increase the share of
women in technical fields and grow the number of women in leadership positions.
These include initiatives such as the Dutch and German Girls' Day in
April that aims at promoting careers in technology amongst schoolgirls.
The first International Women's Day events were celebrated by a handful of nations in the early 1900s. By the mid-1970s, the United Nations began to mark occasion and celebrations gained greater traction. Today, companies, international organisations and individuals worldwide participate in various activities that highlight women's social, economic, cultural and political achievements, while also recognising the issues that still need to be addressed.